It’s been a busy summer for electric cooperatives. This is the season when these 25 local electric utilities hold their annual meetings. The annual meetings aren’t like a lot of other annual meetings of shareholders. At a co-op, the customers are the owners. And since most everyone in a co-op service territory uses electricity, everyone in the community is invited to the annual meeting.
Across the state, there are local differences in these meetings.
Some are relatively small and pretty much stick to business and board election reports. Some are like small, local festivals, with activities for children and musical entertainment.
One of the things that happened at all those annual meetings this year is that the members attending filled out a survey, asking their opinions on the future of the electric utility industry.
They weren’t idle or irrelevant questions. Several states have restructured their electric utility industry, and in Kentucky a task force is studying the issue in order to make recommendations to the legislature when it convenes in January.
Of the seven questions on the survey, the answers to two showed a strong reluctance to make drastic changes to electric service in Kentucky.
According to a random sampling of the more than 10,000 people who filled out the surveys, they like the local ownership, community focus, and not-for-profit status of electric co-ops. A huge 80 percent said, “I prefer things like they are now with local ownership and control.” Four percent thought “a community-owned co-op is too small for tomorrow’s world” and 16 percent didn’t have strong feelings either way.
On the question of restructuring electric utilities in Kentucky, 69 percent said, “I am afraid that restructuring will increase my rates. Rural people will not benefit. Leave my electric service like it is now.” Fourteen percent liked the idea of changing the Industry and 17 percent had no opinion.
We don’t know whether these surveys represent the views of all Kentuckians. But it’s clear that of the people who came to their co-op meeting and spent part of a warm summer evening thinking about the big questions that could affect their electric service, there’s a strong feeling that what we have works pretty well.